Dining in Disneyland: Big Thunder Ranch BBQ Halloween Round Up Featuring Seasonal Cookie Bake

Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch BBQ has always been one of my favorites.  When I heard that it would be closing for good on January 11th, 2016, (in order to make room for Star Wars Land) I knew that I needed to plan a few visits.

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ


One of the fun things about Big Thunder is that the decor changes seasonally.  It’s currently decorated as the “Halloween Round Up.” And when I say decorated, I mean decorated.  They pull out all of the stops, everything from the table coverings to each and every flower scream Halloween! This guy greets you at the entrance.

Welcome to the Halloween Round Up!

Welcome to the Halloween Round Up!

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ is often quite crowded, so I strongly recommend a reservation.  On the day that we were there, I saw many people being turned away because they were already 100% booked up with reservations.  Upon arrival, you’ll check in and will be given a pager.

Check In

Check In

I love the pager system because it allows you to roam a bit and check out the decor.

Halloween Decor

Halloween Decor

I caught my kids knocking on these giant pumpkins because they didn’t believe they were real.  They are, in fact, real!

Giant Pumpkins! They're REAL!

Giant Pumpkins! They’re REAL!

I love the vintage style decor on the posts near the dining tables.

Vintage Style Halloween Decor

Vintage Style Halloween Decor

And this Halloween quilt! Isn’t it adorable?

Halloween Quilt

Halloween Quilt

Who doesn’t need a barrel full of Candy Corn? And what are Groats?

More Decor!

More Decor!

You’re also close enough to get some time in with the Big Thunder Ranch residents!  We happened to get really lucky and be there to watch them line up and “run home” to their stable.

Ranch Residents Lining Up to Head to the Stables

Ranch Residents Lining Up to Head to the Stables

Once your pager buzzes, it’s time to head to the Halloween Round Up sign where a cast member will greet you and show you to your table.

More Halloween Decor

Halloween Round Up Signage

Tables at the BBQ are picnic style.

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ Seating

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ Seating

I love the Fall details on the tablecloths.

Tablecloth Close Up

Tablecloth Close Up

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ is an all you can eat family style meal. Pricing is $29.99 for adults and $12.99 for children ages 3-9.  The price includes bottomless drinks and “All you care to enjoy” BBQ Chicken, Ribs, Sausage, Corn on the Cob, Baked Beans, Coleslaw, and Corn Bread.  If you are a vegetarian or have a vegetarian in your party, make sure to ask for the Vegetarian Skewers upon ordering drinks.  The veggie skewers feature Potatoes, Squash, Bell Peppers, Mushrooms, and Tofu.

All You Can Eat!

All You Can Eat!

Before your food starts coming out, drink orders are taken.  Bottomless options include Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Orange Fanta, Lemonade, Root Beer and Iced Tea.  I actually ordered an Arnold Palmer and the cast member was happy to mix a lemonade and iced tea for me!  All drinks are served up in Mason Jars.

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer

After the arrival of your drinks, the fun starts! First up…  A delivery of plates and utensils.

Plates and Utensils

Plates and Utensils

My boys are all about the meat bucket.  It’s filled with BBQ Chicken that falls off the bone, Ribs, and flavorful Kielbasa style Sausage.

Bucket o' Meat

Bucket o’ Meat

Personally, the sides are my favorite thing at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. The accompaniments make up the perfect BBQ dinner!  I love baked beans and the ones served here are fabulous.

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

The mini Corn on the Cob “Wheels” are also a hit.  The corn is juicy and flavorful with just the right crunch.  They’re cut into smaller pieces, which I love.  They’re perfectly kid sized, and if one isn’t enough you can always grab a second!

Corn on the Cob "Wheels"

Corn on the Cob “Wheels”

The Coleslaw at Big Thunder is also great.  It’s not at all watery nor is it too heavy on the mayonnaise.

Coleslaw

Coleslaw

A perfect BBQ meal wouldn’t be complete without corn bread, and since this is a pretty perfect meal… Here you go! These Mini Corn Bread Loaves are amazing.  Served warm with Honey Butter, these little beauties will become a fast favorite.

Mini Corn Bread Loaves

Mini Corn Bread Loaves & Honey Butter

A combination platter that you create yourself makes this a perfect meal!

Dinner is Served!

Dinner is Served!

The only thing not included with your meal at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ is dessert. AND I highly recommend saving room for some.  The dessert menu is already on your table when you are seated.  Reason being, some of the desserts take about 20 minutes to prepare, so you need to pre-order them.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

The S’mores Bake is one of the most popular desserts at Big Thunder.

S'mores Cookie Bake

S’mores Cookie Bake

It consists of  a giant Warm Chocolate Brownie covered with Toasted Marshmallows.  It’s topped with Graham Crackers & Hot Fudge.  The Smore’s Bake is served piping hot & will satisfy your every craving for a campfire!  For me this one is a little rich; delicious, but a little too much to call it my favorite dessert here.

S'mores Bake Close Up

More S’mores Bake

The biggest hit at our table was Chef Cookie’s Chocolate Chip Deep Dish.  A giant fresh out of the oven Chocolate Chip Cookie is topped with 3 large scoops of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream then drizzled with Hot Fudge.  This thing was devoured so quickly that I was only able to get in one photo!

Cookies

Chef Cookie’s Chocolate Chip Deep Dish

In addition to the Chocolate Chip Cookie, Big Thunder Ranch BBQ always offers a Seasonal Cookie Bake.  Currently the seasonal cookie is a Sugar Cookie topped with three scoops of Pumpkin Ice Cream drizzled with Caramel.

Seasonal Sugar Cookie Bake with Pumpkin Ice Cream

Seasonal Sugar Cookie Bake with Pumpkin Ice Cream

I absolutely loved this seasonal dessert.  The cookie was delicious and I’m a fan of anything pumpkin, so really a winner in my book. I hope to get this one more time before the Christmas holiday season hits!

Sugar Cookie Close Up!

So much YUM!

Not only do you get a great meal here at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, but there is also entertainment.  Your meal is accompanied by live music and performances while you dine.  There’s often some audience participation songs, birthday celebrations, instrumental performances, and if you’re lucky you’ll hear Tex Tumbleweed’s amazing whistling skills!

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ Stage

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ Stage

Overall

Overall, I am basically devastated that we are losing Big Thunder Ranch BBQ to Star Wars Land.  Although I welcome the new land and can’t wait to see it, The Big Thunder Ranch BBQ has been one of my favorite Disneyland restaurants for as long as I can remember.

The food, ambiance, and service can’t be beat here.  I love that fact that it’s family style.  With two growing boys, I feel like we definitely get our money’s worth.  I hope to get back a few more times before the closure.  In the meantime I am going to cross my fingers for a relocation of the BBQ somewhere else.  I vote for a Hungry Bear BBQ takeover!

Will you miss the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ? Do you plan to visit before is closes on January 11Th? Let us know in the comments below!

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

Comments

  1. Richard says

    Great story as always Heather!

    I also tell people to only go for dinner if they can, the sausage isn’t served for lunch!

  2. kdyer407 says

    groats |grōts|
    pl.noun
    hulled or crushed grain, especially oats.
    ORIGIN
    late Old English grotan (plural): related to grit and grits.

  3. Heather Sievers says

    Richard – Great tip, the sausage is excellent!

    kdyer407 – Good to know! Thanks for sharing!!!! ; )

  4. Melissa says

    We heard directly from a cast member on our last visit, that the ranch will be rethemed for Star Wars land, but will reopen. No word on how the food will change, but he implied it will be similar

  5. Heather Sievers says

    Melissa – That’s really interesting. The cast member we spoke with said the opposite… I hope the one you spoke with was correct. I’m not sure how that type of style/food fits in with a Star Wars theme, but I’d eat BBQ in any galaxy!

  6. Michele says

    That’s it!! I just HAVE to find a way to get back down there before January! I’ve never eaten there and I need a cookie bake!

  7. Heather Sievers says

    Michele – Richard beat me to it! But yes, if you can get there, please do so! You won’t be disappointed!

  8. Chris H. says

    A big shame that this is the place that has to make space for Star Wars Land. Don’t get me wrong. I want SWL to come. I just wish it would’ve taken out a restaurant that I don’t hit every trip to Disneyland.

  9. Michele says

    Richard and Heather – I already put something in the works! Haha! I am determined when I wanna get somewhere. I may be coming down next month… fingers crossed!! I’ll be sure to make a reservation once I know if it’s gonna work out!

  10. Essie says

    It looks wonderful (especially the cookie bakes!). Everyone is excited for SWL, but it’s sad that something that is so typically ‘Classic Walt Disney’ will be forever lost.

  11. Heather Sievers says

    Chris H. – I totally agree with you.

    Michele – I hope it works out for you!

    Essie – It is a wonderful place and I agree!

  12. Corinne says

    I love this restaurant, I come over from Australia every year and I am so happy I managed to take my grandkids this year and had a great dinner here. I am coming back in December and already have my booking. Great article, thanks.

  13. Chantal says

    I’m looking forward to my upcoming visit in November. We made reservations for a late lunch at Big Thunder BBQ well in advance. It’s our most favorite place to dine while visiting Disneyland. I’m so sad to see it go, hopefully Disney will surprise us with something similar in the new land.

  14. A Brown says

    Just wondering are you able to do dessert only at big thunder ranch BBQ? Have never eaten there and want to before they close in January 2016 but only want to do the deep dish cookie bake (or maybe the holiday version if there is one)

  15. Heather Sievers says

    A Brown – I have gone for just dessert in the past, but it’s been years since I’ve done that. I would call to confirm and if it is still a “Yes” I’d also make a reservation. They have been really booked up.

  16. Marcy says

    Best chicken anywhere! Amy way to get the recipe so I can make it at home? Would be so sad never to be able to have it again!!!

  17. Matt Wessel says

    This is the biggest lost I can remember in my life at Disneyland park. I love Star Wars. but this restaurant and area missing will forever scar that ‘land’ for me.
    They are giving up too much. Sorry Walt

  18. Scott says

    We are sad to lose Big Thunder Ranch! I had my first meal there in 1995, and we’ve been back many times since. In addition to the great food, the entertainment was always top drawer. Tex Tumbleweed was great in particular. I wonder where he will go next?

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